NEW YORK (Middle East Eye) – The UN human rights chief has condemned Saudi Arabia’s execution of 81 people in a single day.
Michelle Bachelet said war crimes may have been committed if people were beheaded, following court cases that did not offer proper fair trial guarantees.
Saudi Arabia said Saturday it had executed a record 81 people in one day for ‘terrorism-related offences’, exceeding the total number killed in the whole of 2021 and sparking criticism from rights activists.
Bachelet said 41 of those put to death were young men from the Qatif region in the oil-rich, Shia-populated Eastern Province, after they took part in anti-regime protests to call for greater political participation.
“Our monitoring indicates that some of those executed were sentenced to death following trials that did not meet fair trial and due process guarantees, and for crimes that did not appear to meet the most serious crimes threshold, as required under international law,” Bachelet lamented.
She also expressed concern that some of the executions appeared to be linked to the devastating Saudi military aggression on Yemen.
She said that failure to provide relatives with information on the circumstances of their loved ones’ executions “may amount to torture and ill-treatment.”
“Authorities should return the bodies of those executed to their families,” Bachelet underscored.
The top UN human rights official also voiced her concern over the extremely broad definition of terrorism in Saudi legislation, warning, “This risks criminalizing people exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution, and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners, in particular in the Eastern Province.
The province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.